“Here’s what I felt like when I was 25/ Still had my family/ Missed them already,” confesses Cymbals Eat Guitars frontman Joseph D’Agostino on “Chambers,” a song with sharp hooks and sweet melodies belying its stark, introspective lyrics. The track’s something of a microcosm for LOSE. D’Agostino and his bandmates have jettisoned the Byzantine song structures and lyrical obfuscations that colored their previous two albums, 2009′s Why There Are Mountains and 2011′s Lenses Alien, in favor of disarmingly direct language and immediate melodies and choruses. The end result is downright visceral, and by some distance the band’s finest moment.
“Jackson” kicks off the album with a burnished, see-saw melody for D’Agostino’s flashbulb recollection of a female companion relying upon sedatives to quell her anxiety before a Six Flags sojourn. He proceeds to conflate her impending numbness with his own agoraphobic dread, as he breathlessly concedes, “I don’t wanna die/ At the hands of the Jackson Whites” as if he’s in the throes of a hallucinogenic nightmare, over a braying squall of feedback and angelic backing harmonies akin to Lifes Rich Pageant-era R.E.M.
Despite the gravitas and frequent allusions to the sudden, tragic death of D’Agostino’s great friend and musical collaborator Benjamin High in 2007, LOSE is anything but a wallowing pity party. It’s an ode to the emotionally redemptive power of following one’s creative impulses, one’s calling. This is finely exemplified in the fervent rave-up “XR.” Like a stentorian cousin to Neutral Milk’s “Holland 1945,” cross-pollinated with Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, the track has D’Agostino musing, “I raise a toast to the rock ‘n’ roll ghost.” In the context of the song, the ghost is a youthful belief in the galvanizing possibilities of music, a sentiment embodied with élan throughout this superb album.